Update on In-Person Services

Dear Church Families:

We pray that you are all doing well. We wanted to take a minute and update everyone on the latest combined Church Council meeting and on progress of moving toward possible in-person church services. As we outlined in the last letter, the Holston Conference is using the Harvard Global Health Institute[1] data to make decisions related to approval for in-person services. In order to be approved, the area where the church is located has to be below 10 new cases per 100,000 residents. Due to our area being well above that threshold, our churches have been closed to in-person services indefinitely. Until our area is below 10 new cases per 100,000 residents for a sustained period; we will continue to be closed for in-person indoor services.

However, on Monday, August 10th, we received an email from Bishop Taylor that went out to all conference clergy stating that, effective immediately, all Holston Conference churches are allowed to hold Outdoor In-person Services. Here is an excerpt from that communication[2]:  

After several meetings with the COVID-19 Task Force, I am excited to announce, that with safety measures in place, churches are now able to offer outdoor opportunities for worship, service, and connection. Be sure to re-read pages 16-17 of the Taking Steps Forward Faithfully and Safely – Second Edition[3] for guidelines on safe outdoor worship and now, gatherings. While I still look forward, with an expectant heart, to the time when we can gather safely indoors, I hope these outdoor opportunities will help our churches feel connected and full of hope that the best is, indeed, still to come. These opportunities include worship, small groups including youth, adult, and older adult, scouting, and recovery programs. However, please remember your District Superintendent must approve all plans for these meetings. 

We shared this information with the leadership of our churches, and on Friday, August 14th; a joint Church Council meeting with all 3 churches was held online via Zoom. There were many factors discussed and considered in relation to whether or not our churches are ready to move to Outdoor In-person services. Here are some of those factors:

  • The Age of Our Congregations: especially at Mt. Vale and Savannah; the majority of our attenders are above the age of 65; which is the highest risk group for Covid-19.
  • The Current Covid-19 Cases in our Area: while the number of active cases are improving in the City of Galax, and in Carroll and Grayson Counties; Alleghany County has seen a rapid increase over the past couple of weeks. While the majority of this increase can be traced back to one place, the extent of community transmission isn’t yet fully known.
  • Public Schools Reopening: Allegheny County, Carroll County, and Grayson County public schools are reopening on Monday, August 16. There was concern about potential rise in Covid-19 cases as a result. This has been seen in other areas who have already resumed public school instruction for this school year.
  • The Requirements for Resuming In-person Services: the requirements set forth by the Holston Conference Covid-19 Task Force in Taking Steps Forward Faithfully and Safely – Second Edition; were reviewed.
  • The Results of the Interest Survey: the results of the In-person Outdoor Service survey from Mt. Vale and Savannah was presented to the Church Councils. We had 73 out of 117 respond; which gave a 62% Response Rate. Here are the results:
ResponseTotal% of Response
I Would Attend2129%
I Would Attend & Help Set Up1318%
I Would NOT Attend1318%
I’m Not Sure2636%

After careful and extensive discussion, the joint Church Councils voted unanimously not to move forward with Outdoor In-person services at this time. This decision was made with the safety and wellbeing of our congregations as the top priority and concern. In the interim, the following are action steps that were developed:

  • Continue providing services as we are currently via Facebook Live
  • Move forward with developing the required Plan for Outdoor In-person Services and submit it to the District Superintendent for approval. This plan would not have a start date but would already have the necessary approval and be ready to be implement once the churches were ready to move to Outdoor In-person Services.
  • Carefully watch the Covid-19 cases in our areas now that the local public school systems are back in session to see what impact it has on case numbers.
  • Reconvene the joint Church Councils in one month; somewhere around on September 15th to reevaluate.  

While we understand that not everyone agrees on the current state of things and not everyone will agree with every decision; the goal for the leadership of our 3 churches is in keeping everyone safe. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate these very fluid and unprecedented times together. We love and miss you guys greatly, we pray for you all daily, and we can’t wait until we can all be together again safely.

Blessings,

Pastor David and Pastor Ronnie


[1] https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/

[2] https://www.holston.org/post/bishop-taylor-outdoor-gathering-opportunities-14147387

[3] https://www.holston.org/files/communications/covid-19/faithfully+and+safely+2nd+edition.pdf